Child Protective Services

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In the United States, Child Protective Services is a generic term used to describe human services agencies in each state tasked with responding to reports of child abuse. In many states, this agency has a different, friendlier-sounding name (for example, New Jersey's "Division of Child Protection and Permanency", or Texas' "Department of Family and Protective Services").

Agencies of this sort typically receive criticism from all corners of the political spectrum. Liberals complain that CPS is underfunded and inadequate, conservatives complain that its actions often violate the civil liberties of parents by micromanaging their decisions[1], and wingnuts allege that it enlists doctors to help the government steal babies,[2] in order to "break asunder God-given, natural, parent-child bonds".[3] Republicans want to "decrease abuse caseloads" while simultaneously having "stringent enforcement of laws against the abuse of children".[4] In Arizona, Republicans starved CPS of funds before abolishing it altogether.[5]

As is to be expected of an overwhelmed, underfunded government bureaucracy tasked with an unpleasant and difficult job that most would rather not think about, there have been several notable failures of Child Protective Services:

  • Texas CPS seized a bunch of Fundamentalist Mormon children at Yearning for Zion Ranch based on a tip from an inadequately vetted informant.[6]
  • In New York City, a 7-year-old girl was beaten and starved to death while a CPS agent charged with monitoring her case repeatedly ignored physical evidence of abuse on her body and did almost nothing to report it. [7]
  • In Ohio, a private agency with a contract from the state's CPS agency placed a 3-year-old boy in the care of foster parents with an extensively-documented history of mental health issues, who eventually murdered the boy.[8]
  • In Georgia, more than 800 children died between 1995-98 while under the supervision of Georgia's Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS). One child, a five-year old boy whose mother was addicted to crack cocaine, was removed from his home and placed with his maternal grandmother, who beat, starved, and eventually murdered him; despite dozens of reports of abuse, several emergency room visits, and 11 different case workers, no action was ever taken to remove the boy from the abusive environment. After the boy's death, Georgia DFCS engaged in a cover-up of the facts in the case; nobody involved was ever prosecuted and several of those directly implicated by investigations of the case retired with large government pensions.[9]

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